Back when I was a young lad, I can’t recall how old exactly, in either Freshman or Sophomore English we were taken to the journalism room. There we sat for a lesson that took now more than 45 minutes but it has had a great impact on my life. When you are taught journalism early on it is all about who, what, where, when, why, and how. It is far more than that. Sitting in that room we went over sources and legitimate vs illegitimate sources of news. This was the very early days of the internet but the height of tabloid TV shows like Alien Autopsy and A Current Affair. The internet has helped to disseminate misinformation but it is far from it’s beginning. Most of that days was spent, not discussing how to write a news article, but how to read them. How to know if the paper you’ve picked up is a legit one or if it is The Weekly World News.
Now that the internet is here and our number one source of news information it is more important than ever to understand media literacy. The easiest way I have found to do this is to either Google the reporter’s source or to Google the information presented in the article. If the source of the article turns out to be a nutter then that article isn’t legitimate and if no other news sources are reporting on what you are reading it is false.
This is the age of disinformation and an election year. Possibly that most important election in American history. It is certainly being framed that way. Democratic Presidential Nominee Joe Biden has repeatedly called it a battle for the soul of our nation and The Lincoln Project has termed it Trump vs America. It is not just an election for who will be our next president but a battle of what ideals we wish to follow. When our Constitution was written it laid out two paths. One of We The People and liberty and due process for all and one of property owning white male privilege. The United States of America was founded on the conflicting idea that all men are created equal but some men are property. Heroes of our nation have since fought to abolish the idea of racial superiority from our nation but some men won’t let go and now fight harder than ever to hold onto it.
When it comes to our rights as Americans the ones I find most important are the rights of self rule and self determination. This is where all our other rights come from and the foundation for a nation for the people, by the people, and of the people. Being inundated with false and malicious misinformation presented as news by a foreign power is an act of war against the United States, and seeing people defend that act of war is treasonous. It is a shame that this is where America is. It is a shame that we are going to spend another election cycle either logging off the internet or fighting disinformation, because for every minute we spend engaging with a false story, even to disprove it, that is a minute not spent informing ourselves about the issues.
The weapons of tyrants aren’t bombs, guns, or goon squads. They certainly use those things, but the first weapon is creating distrust of information. Creating a population that is uneducated and ill informed. You can argue that our founding fathers won our independence on the battlefields of the Revolutionary War or you can argue that men were so willing to fight and die for their new nation because of an idea. An idea conceived in liberty and brought forth upon this land. The idea that all men are created equal. Men and woman have bravely fought around the world to protect this idea. America is this idea, and if we allow ourselves to fall to inner corruption or foreign influence that idea dies. This is why we must stay informed but know that the information we take in is from a legitimate news source. Media literacy is a lot like carpentry, measure twice and cut once.